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Skiers Vs Snowboarders: Why Can't They Get Along?
If you have been out on the slopes recently then you understand where I am coming from when I pose this question. This cat and dog relationship seems to permeate every ski hill in America. The next time you are at a ski area stop for a minute and watch the lift lines. The face of a skier who suddenly realizes he has to ride the lift with a couple of snowboarders speaks volumes to the tempestuous relationship these two cultures have. Some resorts have even responded to the growing animosity by creating skier and snowboarder specific runs in order to keep the two separated. Obviously there are some skiers and snowboarders that have found ways to live in harmony. But those relationships are few and far between and tend to be fostered by younger generations who are having too much fun on the slopes to care about how their fun might be ruining someone's day. What has driven such a deep chasm between two winter activities so closely related? What is it about snowboarders that drives skiers so crazy? Why is it skiers are so uptight on the slopes? In other words, why can't we all just get along?
The Skiers Perspective
To properly understand why skiers dislike snowboarders so much one must first understand the mind of a skier. In the mind of a skier, his sport is the pinnacle of man's ability to wrestle nature into submission and create an environment that he might display his craft for all to see. With logging equipment, ski-lift building materials, cannons for avalanche control, grooming machinery, and a century's worth of technological wonderment strapped to his feet he boldly schusses down the not-quite-so-rugged-anymore mountain face as the conquering hero. And on days when nature chooses not to supply an ample enough amount of the fluffy white stuff, he built a machine to provide it for him! Once he achieves his mastery of the run, he is free to remove his incredibly uncomfortable footwear and reward himself with a beer next to a roaring fire underneath a large moose head and admire his hard work. In short, mankind has created an amazing testament to itself by creating a mountain resort where once mere trees stood, it should be enjoyed by those who can travel its slopes with true grace and beauty and truly appreciate it. Namely skiers.
Skiers, by their very nature, are resistant to change and often respond with divisiveness. If you think that their conflict with snowboarders is new to them you are sadly mistaken. Telemark vs Alpine skis, shaped skis vs parallel, integrated vs non-integrated, Aspen vs Whistler. All of these and more can produce an unresolvable conflict. Skiers are a feisty bunch.
Skiers are also very proud of the value of their equipment and skiing is an expensive sport. Skis and boots are only the beginning of the equation. You also must attach your boots to your skis with bindings and adorn yourself with the appropriate attire for gracing the slopes in the winter. Before you have to drop $100 on a lift ticket and $50 on lunch you have already spent your daughter's tuition on your outfit and equipment. With all the time and money a skier invests in his skis and attire, there is a high level of expectation as to the respect their equipment deserves from the other people on the ski hill.
All of these factors come into play when you sum up the approach skiers take to their craft. Man's domination over nature, a hill wrought with potential foes encroaching on their territory, and the sheer enormity of their investment require that the skier maintain a high level of civility and seriousness at all times. While skiing is fun, no skier should ever look like they are having fun. To do so would be to spit in the faces of all the skiers who have come before.
Famous Skier Quotes About Snowboarders:
"Stop destroying my moguls!"
"Pull up your pants!"
"Why do you all have to sit here and block the top of the run?!"
"What in the hell is a jib?"
The Snowboarders Perspective
Snowboarders are a sub-culture of skiers and that connection will be forever linked and forever loathed by skiers. Snowboarders, to their credit, don't really care. Much like the surf and skateboard cultures that came before them, snowboarders enjoy a high level of an 'anti-establishment' mentality. Their clothes are designed to be comfortable (i.e. large enough for a family of 4), not 'aerodynamic' (i.e. skin tight and ridiculous). The rules are in place as merely suggestions, and the reason that building is there is so they can jump off it. The mountains are nature's playground, why wouldn't you have fun while playing?
Snowboarders, by their very nature, are adaptive and embrace change wholeheartedly. In fact, you could even say that snowboarding is inherently about change and the creative process. Rockered boards, twin-tips, the advent of the snow-park, and the constant invention of new tricks are all examples of the evolutionary process of snowboarding. A process classical skiers resist and see as a very silly use of your time.
Snowboarders, for the most part, aren't willing to take out a second mortgage on their houses in order to fund their trips to the mountains. This is not, as a skier would have you think, because all snowboarders still live in their parent's basement. While their culture tends to be a little younger and have less discretionary income, they nevertheless demand high quality for their investment. This can be another source of angst for a skier who spent $4500 on the gear he strapped to the top of his Audi who sees a snowboarder who spent less than $1000 rolling up in a '83 Civic hatchback having more fun than him.
The snowboard was born out of a counter-culture experience. Snowboarding is inherently easier (although harder to master, some would argue) to learn than skiing and therefore makes more of the resort accessible to a broader range of ability levels. What many skiers fail to realize is that the lower costs, more forgiving learning curve, and appeal to younger generations of snowboarding probably saved the American ski resort as we know it. 15 years ago skiing was prohibitively expensive and not as 'cool' as you might think. Resorts were facing dwindling numbers every year. Snowboarding changed all that and forced the ski industry to innovate to keep up. Now resorts are seeing record attendance every year (of new skiers as well as snowboarders) and more access to a more diverse group of people. Snowboarders usually don't use this argument, however, because they're too busy having fun on the slopes to argue.
Famous Snowboard Quotes:
"Shred the gnar!"
"That right-handed-1080-reverse-ollie-grab-jib-flip was epic, bro!"
"I can't hear you because I've embedded speakers in my helmet and my brain is being pounded by my emo music."
The solution, as with most things, probably lies somewhere in the middle. Snowboarders do owe a lot to previous generations of skiers. And skiers should probably just chill out most of the time. While they may never learn to live in complete harmony, it is impossible to avoid seeing the impact that snowboarding has taken on skiing and snow-sports in general. A person wearing their snowpants around their knees could just as likely be a skier as a snowboarder now. Both sports compete in the half-pipe and snow-parks. Maybe snowboarders have taught skiers a little bit about expressing the fun they are having on the mountain. Personally, I am a skier and some of my best days out on the hills have been with snowboarders. I have seen drunk snowboarders fall over in lift lines, but I have also seen snowboarders be the only group to stop and see if a fallen skier is okay. If I had to count I am sure I have been cut off by just as many skiers as I have by snowboarders. The truth is that it doesn't matter if you're a skier or a snowboarder, everyone is out there for the same reason: to have a good time in the snow. Whatever your chosen method of snow travel is, be sure to be safe out there and don't hesitate to smile while you're having fun!